I was in the library this afternoon looking for some books that would inspire students during our summer writing academy when I got distracted by the Woodson books on the shelves. I love Brown Girl Dreaming, and Each Kindness, but I had never read some of Jacqueline Woodson's other books. I sat down and read one of them right on the spot. Honestly, Our Gracie Aunt took my breath away. I knew that Jacqueline Woodson writes emotional books, but I wasn't ready for the power of this picture book. I found myself welling up right there on the library floor. This is a book that I would use to teach turning points to young readers and writers, as the emotional arc in the story is intense.
I brought some of Jacqueline Woodson's other books home with me, so that I could cry in a less public setting.
What a beautiful book Coming on Home Soon is! While it would be a wonderful addition to a text set about African American's roles in wars, it is also an amazing book for teaching craft moves in narrative writing. For example, there are shifts in time, as the book is written in the present tense with memories and flashbacks woven in throughout the text. Also, Jacqueline Woodson is a master at using fragments effectively. On the first page, she writes:
Mama's hands are warm and soft. When she put her Sunday dress into the satchel, I held my breath. Tried hard not to cry.I would love to talk to students about how that last sentence is so powerful, not only for the meaning, but also because of the use of a fragment. E.B. Lewis illustrated this book, and did an amazing job at capturing the story and suggesting what might be happening with the artwork. I could envision powerful conversations emerging from the secondary storyline that exists in the illustrations.
If you are trying to teach students how to capture dialogue and details of a place, We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past has fabulous examples and mentor passages. I loved the line "Grandma says Martha should be in any room but the kitchen." What an amazing job of holding on to the funny things people say and then re-creating them in a book Jacqueline Woodson does.
And then Show Way is a book that I will return to again and again. I'm planning to sit down with a pile of post-its and mark it up for the power of images--, the power of listing things in a series--stars and moons and roads--, the power of repetition--Loved that baby up so. Yes, she loved that baby up...If you have never read Show Way, I highly recommend it for both the incredible prose and the beautiful artwork by Hudson Talbott. Just have tissues close by.